In my weekly blog posts, I often write about the challenges that business owners bring to me. My scribbled call notes look like this:
“If we could just figure out the right job titles, then we redo our organization chart, then….”
“How do other companies deal with credit card fees? Should we pass them on to…”
“My employees are asking for raises. Is there a standard percentage for…”
While these are important questions, they don’t really move the needle when it comes to growing a high-value brand. At best, they reduce today’s noise by a small percentage.
If we’re too absorbed in our day-to-day tasks (i.e., too busy to make the hard decisions or plan for the future), the business suffers. Breaking the pattern isn’t easy, but your efforts will pay off with improved life-work balance and more engaged employees.
How do you create the capacity for change and improvement without getting bogged down in the problems of the day?
Successful entrepreneurs follow these guiding principles when it comes to working on their businesses:
Work Like a Temp
Owners sometimes need to take on active roles in the business due to unforeseeable circumstances or because the role has never been fully fleshed out before. Successful leaders treat these roles as temporary jobs.
For example, Mike wanted to boost sales orders, but none of his previous choices to be Sales Manager had delivered the expected results.
So, Mike temporarily became the Sales Manager. He took advantage of the opportunity to learn and improve the processes of that role, while actively looking for his permanent replacement. Armed with a much clearer understanding of his own expectations, he also set up the new hire for success.
Need to revamp marketing? Then the owner takes charge of that and builds the marketing plan. Implementing a new sales CRM? The owner leads the team that does the integration.
The benefits are tangible. The owner can make fast decisions while protecting their investment. Their intent or vision for the project will remain in focus. And, projects are a great way to practice delegation skills.
My coaching clients recognize this and many of them have cycled through multiple management roles or project launches in their own businesses, which helped them identify the right leaders to tackle those roles in the future.
Successful owners delegate, but delegating isn’t enough. To delegate well, you have to allow other people to make mistakes you wouldn’t have made yourself. These are learning moments for everyone.
The worker who is allowed to make an error, fix it, and learn how to avoid the problem in the future will share that knowledge with the team. The whole team learns. A worker who is chastised for mistakes will probably not expose themselves to more criticism.
A culture that treats mistakes as a crisis tends to avoid hard decisions and therefore rarely improves performance.
Another layer to embracing mistakes is to allow choices. There’s an old axiom about not watching the sausage being made. Judge it only after it reaches your plate.
Successful leaders encourage their teams to make interior choices without direct scrutiny or judgment.
No one wants to repeat themselves. It’s frustrating to give the same direction or explanation over and over again. Why don’t people listen?
Um, maybe it’s you?
I coach my clients to see re-explaining as an opportunity to communicate better. One of the tenets of Intentional Success® is to always preface the explanation with the guiding principle.
Example: A warehouse ran two shifts. One team came in at 07:00 and worked till 16:00, while the second crew came in at 10:00 and worked till 19:00. The early crew always complained that the late crew left too much work unfinished. The late crew complained that the early crew clocked out before their work was complete.
Elyse re-explained the principles of the split shift. The early crew has an open-ended arrival time. They can be called in earlier than 07:00 if there’s a lot of work to be done. The late shift has an open-ended departure time. They can leave when the work is done. The shifts overlap to maintain continuity in the plan.
Cooperation helps both teams stick to their schedules to reduce disruption in their lives and deliver consistently great results.
I don’t know how many times Elyse needed to give that speech, but pretty soon every team member could recite it from memory. Together, they figured out how to resolve the finger-pointing without an owner micromanaging the situation.
Put in the Work
Once you’re ready to embrace all the responsibilities and benefits of ownership, the job will get harder for a while. You’ll have to make time and financial investments to reap the rewards. But that’s not the hard part.
The most difficult job you will ever do as a business owner is to decide. It’s what everyone around you is waiting for.
Do you know where to start?